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Posted by on May 28, 2015 in Featured, Islam, Law, Media, Politics, Religion | 34 comments

‘Draw Muhammad’ contest planned in Phoenix

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It was inevitable we’d see more of these.

And in this story you’re impressed not with this being held but by the response of the local Islamic group:

An Phoenix area anti-Muslim activist is planning a “draw Muhammad” cartoon contest and rally in Phoenix on Friday. The event is being dubbed a “Freedom of Speech Rally” and comes three weeks after a similar event in Garland, Texas, that prompted violence by two alleged ISIS sympathizers.

And it’s going to be done right in front of the city’s Islamic Center.

Now, just read the comments of those running the event and those whose religious sensitivities are not only being ignored but who are being put broad-brush into a category with terrorists.

The organizer of the event, Jon Ritzheimer, has held two protests in Phoenix since the Texas shootings. The chants and slogans at the protests are brash and hateful.

Some supporters wear t-shirts that state, “(expletive) Islam.” Ritzheimer says he is using provocative methods to draw attention to a religion he believes at its core promotes violence.

“I want this to be about pushing out the truth about Islam,” said Jon Ritzheimer. “I’ve read the Koran three times… the ones flying the planes into the tower, those are Muslims following the book as it is written.”

I only took Professor Kenneth Morgan’s course on Hinduism when I went to Colgate University and I’ve read a bit about Islam and love to talk comparative religion. But I never realized the Koran mentioned the Twin Towers.

A Facebook page dedicated to the event titled “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” states: “This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ… Everyone is encouraged to bring American flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen.”

Now someone from the Islamic Center:

The president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix where the protest is planned said he has been notified by Phoenix Police and the FBI about the event. Usama Shami said he respects the protesters’ right to free speech.

“Everybody has a right to be a bigot. Everybody has a right to be a racist. Everybody has a right to be an idiot,” Shami said. He added that members of the mosque have been encouraged to attend prayer services Friday evening as scheduled.

“It will be the same as every Friday evening and we’re going to tell our members what we’ve told them before: not to engage them,” said Shami. “They’re not looking for an intellectual conversation. They’re looking to stir up controversy and we’re not going to be a part of it.”

Each reader might ask him or herself, which is the better role model for kids?

I’m now reading “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror” by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan. It’s abundantly clear throughout the book that the kind of murder and terror represented by ISIS does not represent all of Islam.

FOOTNOTE: No, with a name like “Gandelman” I’m not Muslim, or Catholic, or Christian, or Hindu. And with a name like Gandelman a few weeks ago I spent a great evening at a Muslim fammily event in Southern California. I also lived about three weeks total with a Muslim family in Dacca in the early 70s, and in 1979 the head of that family visited Connecticut to spend a week with me and my parents, Helen and Richard Gandelman — who with a name like “Gandelman” were not Muslims, or Catholics or Christians or Hindus.

There is the freedom to say an draw what you want.

But courageous cartoonists today who aren’t posturing have a point to make in their cartoons and draw a cartoon to make a point — not just to dare someone to react or try and hurt them. As The Christian Science Monitor’s kind of super stringer (Special Correspondent of) in Madrid from 1976-1978 I knew young Spanish journalists, cartoonists and editors who were daring to speak out in the immediate post-Franco era when some sympathizers of the old regime could and did occasionally get rough. They used their country’s burgeoning free speech to express ideas or positions, not just dare the government or extremist groups to come after them.

People who do these events — and I predict we’ll see more of them — will get lots of attention on far-right blogs, praise from some radio talk show hosts, and some air time in Fox News. And then if an extremist reacts and kills someone at one of these we all know they’ll say: “See? That’s all of Islam for you!”

But there’s also the freedom of those observing to get what others are really doing and to draw their conclusions.

And to try to make sure it isn’t contagious to kids who are taught in schools throughout the county not to stereotype others as individuals or as a whole group.

Because that’s how you grow up into adults who understand the meaning of freedom, democracy, respect — and how to differentiate extremists and nutcases from an entire group.

UPDATE: I like this response from a blogger called The Friendly Atheist the best. HE gets it.